07 May 10 Tips to Better Senior Respiratory Health
Breathe a little easier by supporting lung support and function in older adults.
Breathing is a vital function of our lives. Every second of every day, our lungs are constantly working. Your lungs allow your body to take oxygen from the air. It filters out carbon dioxide, which is a toxic gas, from your body.
As we have learned during the outbreak of COVID-19, important respiratory health for seniors is critical. The virus not only directly impacts the lungs and respiratory system, but older adults are those most at risk. Seniors that have certain respiratory conditions are most vulnerable to not only the coronavirus, but to other respiratory ailments as well.
Respiratory Conditions That Impact Seniors
There are four central types of chronic health concerns that can affect your lungs as you get older:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a group of lung disorders that make it challenging to breathe. There are 15.7 million people living with COPD in the United States,. The disease can have serious long-term consequences to those that suffer from it. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two forms of COPD. Some symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and tighteness in the chest.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes difficulty breathing. It fosters recurring periods of wheezing, plus tightness in the chest, coughing, and shortness of breath. Asthma attacks aren’t always immediate, either. When they occur over the course of hours or days, older adults have an increased risk of becoming critically ill. However, proper treatment can save your life and help prevent attacks.
Pneumonia is an infection that creates inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs,. They will then fill up with fluid or pus. This makes it hard for seniors to properly breathe. Some signs and symptoms of pneumonia include fever, a cough that may produce phlegm, nausea, chills, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia may be especially dangerous in adults over the age of 65 due to a weakened immune system.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a major contributor to respiratory health problems. When the heart can no longer pump blood adequately throughout the body, it creates a buildup of fluid that ends up being pushed into the lungs. Referred to as pulmonary edema, symptoms of respiratory distress that stem from heart failure include wheezing, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, crackling sounds when breathing, sweating, and a cough with pink or frothy mucus.
10 Tips for Improving Respiratory Health and Prevention
Prevention is key to maintaining adequate respiratory health. For those with compromised respiratory conditions, there are still measures that can be taken to mitigate respiratory concerns. Below, find 7 tips to improve respiratory health for seniors include the following:
Don’t smoke at all, and stop smoking if you currently do
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the CDC. It’s never too late to stop smoking, even if you’ve routinely smoked for years. It won’t reverse the damage that has happened, but the negative effects can be slowed down dramatically.
Watch your posture
The lungs are soft structures, so they only take up the room that you make for them in your bodies.
Monitor and be mindful of your posture. Not only does it help your body open up the all-important lungs, but it has other great benefits as well. A simple tip that you can incorporate regularly is to occasionally sit tall and reach overhead, which makes more room for your lungs.
Get screened regularly
Be sure to schedule and attend your annual physical. This is especially true for older adults. On top of an annual physical, request having a breathing test prescribed. This is particularly vital if you are a smoker. The results could suggest treatment is necessary or lifestyle changes are needed to help prevent lung cancer, heart attack, and stroke.
Incorporate regular exercise into your routine
Exercise can help combat muscle atrophy in and around the chest area. Therefore, working out regularly allows the lungs to open up more fully. Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your routine. This can ensure that the alveoli (air cells of the lungs) remain strong and healthy. It also can help ward off pneumonia.
Be mindful of contaminant and pollutants that can make you sick
Keep The home clear of cigarette smoke and dust. Also, you may try avoiding artificial air fresheners and candles, as those can irritate the lungs. Maintaining a clean home is essential, especially from dust and pet dander. Use natural cleaning products. Ensure adequate ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens while cleaning as well.
Avoid large crowds
As we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring social distancing and gatherings can help limit the spread of the coronavirus, a disease that attacks the respiratory system. To ensure the chance for healthy lungs, limit your gatherings while the pandemic is ongoing. If and when the coronavirus concerns abate, this still holds true in other cases. For example, heeding this advice during the flu season for those at risk may also be a good idea.
Regularly wash your hands
Washing your hands effectively has been proven to be one of the most effective methods to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. It can also help to prevent respiratory infections. Reference our guide on proper handwashing and maintaining skin care for seniors for more information.
To maintain a strong immune system, seniors need to ensure adequate daily hydration. Seniors are prone to dehydration, which complicates many health concerns, including for respiratory health.
Ensure a strong immune system
The immune system provides vital support to our bodies to ward off invaders like viruses and bacteria. Do what you can to support your immune system so your body can be prepared for the fight against illness. Read our guide on boosting your immune system for more tips.
Stay on top of regular vaccinations
It is crucial to receive vaccinations routinely. This includes getting your vaccine yearly for seasonal flu, along with a pneumonia vaccine. Older adults benefit from keeping up with their shots, as they are considered high risk categories for complications from flu and pneumonia, among others.
Being proactive about your health can prolong your life. Start incorporating these respiratory health tips into your daily life so you can give your body the best chance of fighting off health concerns with healthy and strong lungs.
For seniors with respiratory conditions, they may find that they need a little extra help and support in their daily activities that are a challenge with a respiratory condition or other ailments. Chosen Family Home Care is a Philadelphia and greater Delaware Valley based home healthcare agency that specializes in senior assistance through hands on care that can make life a little easier at home. Through a comprehensive needs assessment and mission-driven approach, we can determine the best course of action for you and your loved one, while considering your budget and the individual requirements that older adults need.